The Australian Rally Commission has confirmed that Rally Queensland has been elevated in status to be included as a round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship from 2009, replacing the Rally of Canberra as Australia's leg of the series.

The Rally of Canberra will remain a round of the Australian Rally Championship and ARCom is confident in the future of the event, which had previously held Asia-Pacific status since 1999.

The FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship hosts rallies in New Caledonia, New Zealand, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, China and Australia and boasts teams and competitors from all around the world.

Australian driver Cody Crocker is two-time defending APRC champion and currently sits second in this year's standings.

Rally Queensland is staged in the Sunshine Coast region one hour north of Brisbane, with next year's event set down for May 8-10. The 2008 event was held June 20-22 and won by Neal Bates and Coral Taylor.

As a result of this change, the Rally of Canberra will be re-scheduled to a new date in 2009.

"Rally Queensland will make an exceptional round of the Asia-Pacific Championship and the organisers, officials and rallying community in Queensland thoroughly deserve this endorsement," said ARCom chairman Colin Trinder.

"This will give the Sunshine Coast a truly international event and raise Rally Queensland to a new level of significance, exposure and excitement."

ARCom recognises that the decision will come as a disappointment for the thousands of rally supporters and volunteer officials in the ACT who have delivered sterling service to the Rally of Canberra, which is held in high regard by international competitors.

"The transfer of the Asia-Pacific Championship status is a regrettable decision for Canberra rally fans but one which was taken because of the strong interest shown by Queensland to provide the appropriate level of support for the event," added Trinder.

"While we acknowledge and appreciate that Rally of Canberra rally supporters and volunteers have delivered in excess of expectations time and again over many years, our difficult decision had to be made in the best interests of the event's continuity and guaranteed fiscal support."

The ACT Government had formerly played a key role in organising the Asia-Pacific Championship event, however the government withdrew from the role as promoter in 2007 when it terminated its contract with CAMS two years early.

The 2008 event was conducted by a private promotional organisation and without a major sponsor.

Rally organisers had sought support for the event for 2009 from the ACT Government but learned this week that their request had been declined.

Mr Trinder said that rallying was poised to undergo a significant resurgence in Australia next year, with a round of the World Rally Championship returning to Australia in 2009 - and for the first time on the east coast of Australia - with the 2009 Repco Rally Australia.

"Our belief is that the excitement generated by the WRC coming to the east coast will have a knock-on effect which will provide a boost for the Australian Rally Championship and its premier rounds, such as the Rally of Canberra," Trinder summed-up.

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